A certified nurse paralegal works with attorneys in cases that involve litigation over medical issues. They must have nursing experience as well as experience with the legal process. To be certified as a nurse paralegal requires several years of nursing experience as well as at least three years of experience as a legal nurse consultant.
Certified nurse paralegals are experienced registered nurses that have acquired experience with the legal process. Certification requires a minimum of five years of experience as a registered nurse and three years as a legal nurse consultant.
|Required Education||An RN designation through a diploma, an associate's or a bachelor's degree program in nursing, along with significant acquired legal knowledge and expertise through the analysis of medical records and the assessment of liability issues|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||16% (for registered nurses), 8% (for paralegals & legal assistants)|
|Median Annual Salary||$67,490 (for registered nurses, 2015)*, $48,810 (for paralegals & legal assistants, 2015)*, $72,510 (for legal nurse consultants, 2016)**|
Sources: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com
Certified nurse paralegals, more commonly known as Certified Legal Nurse Consultants (CLNC), use their medical and legal training to support attorneys in medical-related litigation. They are differentiated from traditional paralegals because of their acquired medical expertise. CLNCs act as liaisons between the medical and legal professions and may advise on medical processes, conduct audits and review patient care. Common duties include:
- Explaining medical practices to legal professionals
- Reviewing medical documents
- Identifying and evaluating experts
- Drafting documents to be used by attorneys
- Projecting medical costs
Nurse paralegals may work for law firms, hospitals, insurance companies or government agencies. Many colleges and universities offer legal nurse consultant certificate programs designed to prepare nurses for the legal arena. However, these programs do not result in certification nor are they mandatory to obtain a credential.
Payscale.com, as of January 2016, reports that the median annual salary for legal nurse consultants was $72,510. Those with 0-5 years of experience made a median salary of up to $78,000 per year.
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The American Legal Nurse Consultant Certification Board (ALNCCB), a component of the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC), designates qualified applicants as CLNCs based on work experience, successful completion of a certification examination, submission of an application and paid fees.
Applicants must be licensed registered nurses (RN) and have been practicing for at least five years. Additionally, prospective candidates must provide evidence of 2,000 hours of legal nurse consulting within the past three years. According to the AALNC, acceptable hours must be client requested and related to claims in which RN education or experience is required and billable. Examples of consulting include reviewing or analyzing medical records, assessing liability issues and testifying at legal hearings.
CLNCs must be re-certified every five years and must have a current, unrestricted RN license and proof of the 2,000 hours of legal nurse consulting work completed within five years of renewal. CLNCs have a choice between re-taking the certification exam or accruing 60 contact hours. The AALNC defines contact hours as continuing education, academic coursework, presentations or publications. Applicants must also submit the re-certification application and respective fees.
Certified nurse paralegals have extensive experience in nursing and as a legal consultant. In addition to acquiring multiple years of experience in both fields, they must pass exams to be certified and renew their certification every five years, while maintaining their registered nursing license.